Germany has cautioned Russia not to politically exploit a claim of rape by a 13-year-old girl from a Russian immigrant family in Berlin.
Speaking on January 27, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was "surprised" by remarks his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, made about the case the previous day.
"There is no reason or justification for using the case of this 13-year-old girl -- which is still being investigated -- as political propaganda in order to influence and inflame an internal German debate which is difficult enough, the debate on migration," Steinmeier said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said earlier on January 27 that it was "inappropriate for this case to be politically exploited" by Russia.
German legal authorities "should be able to complete their investigation without disturbances from abroad," Seibert said.
The girl, who disappeared on January 11 before reappearing the next day, is at the center of a media storm after she initially told police she was kidnapped and raped by what her family said were Middle Eastern migrants.
At a high-profile annual press conference on January 26, Lavrov said that "the girl certainly did not voluntarily disappear for 30 hours" and called for "truth and justice."
Lavrov said he hoped the German authorities don't "attempt to cover up the reality for some domestic, politically correct reason."
Berlin police say they have found no evidence of rape or abduction.
But the spokesman for Berlin's prosecutor's office, Martin Steltner, told RFE/RL two men were under investigation for possible past sexual contact with the girl, which under German law can be prosecuted as child abuse since she is under 14.
Steltner said neither man is a recent migrant; one is a German citizen and the other, a long-term resident, has a Turkish passport.
The case has prompted public rallies organized by Russian immigrant communities in Berlin and other German cities.
The Berlin incident occurred weeks after authorities in another German city, Cologne, were criticized for what was widely seen as a slow response to a spate of sexual assaults and robberies of women allegedly carried out by Middle Eastern and North African men on New Year's Eve.
With reporting by Pete Baumgartner, dpa, Interfax, Berliner Zeitung, AFP, and Reuters